Seven Steps to Successful Peluquería Trip

Getting a Haircut

Dear Marion,

We all know that getting a haircut can be a stressful experience, now imagine adding to it the need to communicate in a different language. You can only hope that the hairdresser doesn’t misunderstand you and haphazardously chop off all your beautiful locks. It’s enough to keep you at home with those split-ends until the end of your semester in Spain. But fear not! You can confidently and successfully visit the peluquería for whatever hair-care service you need. Here you can find our pro tips for a smooth, well-groomed experience while living abroad:

1.) Decide what you want BEFORE you venture in: Have a clear idea of what you want so you can anticipate (and potentially look up) any vocabulary you might need to explain yourself to your hairdresser. Here are some key words that may be of use to you:

  • Corte: haircut
  • Lavado: wash
  • Peinado: style
  • Planchado: straightened
  • Rizado: curled
  • Tinte: dye
  • Mechas: highlights
  • Reflejo: lightening (less noticeable, thinner version of  'mechas' that really seem to shine or 'reflect' in the sunlight)
  • Capas: layers
  • Flequillo: bangs

2.) Find a photo: Where your words may fail you, a picture should not! Even though I now feel quite confident explaining what I want, I still make sure to bring a number of photos with me to reiterate my points. This will also help your hairdresser get an idea of the exact colors, lengths of layers, etc. that you want (which can be difficult to verbalize in any language, unless you are a seasoned stylist yourself).

3.) Shop around: Check out pricing at a few different places before you commit to one. If you have Spanish friends or know others who have lived in the area for awhile, ask for their hair salon recommendation. Price does NOT always equate to quality in Spain. You could find an incredible hairdresser who charges very little or a horrendous one with a central location that therefore charges a fortune. Get an idea of the going rates in your area and don’t pay more than the average unless you have reason to believe that it will, indeed, be worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are any discounts available―for students or jovenes (youth, usually up to 26) either!

4.) Make an appointment: This is not necessary in most salons, but it can be a good tactic to help you feel the most comfortable. This way, you have two opportunities to explain what you want (and clarify if you think you were misunderstood the first time). Also, if you have a tendency to get talked into more treatments or higher prices than you really want to pay you, this gives you a chance to think through it all before the appointment and craft your explanation for not getting all of the services and/or cancel the appointment altogether over the phone. **Of course, therefore, be sure to get their business card or snap a photo of their phone number.**

5.) Speak up: As with any service experience, you are the customer and you are meant to receive the service that you actually asked for. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see that what you want is not happening (or, ideally, if you even have an inkling that it’s not going to be the result you desire). I have often asked follow-up questions, for example, to be sure they understood that I asked for mechas, not a tinte entera, to avoid leaving the salon platinum-blonde when all I wanted was a little lightening. In most cases, that had already been understood, but it never hurts to confirm!

6.) Be appreciative, but not too generous: When it comes time to pay, remember that Spain is not a tip-based culture. If you are truly unhappy with the treatment you received, you do not need to give a tip at all. If you are ecstatic about your new look, you still don’t need to tip to say thanks! Although I admit that the guiri in me still feels the need to leave something. [The first time I went to the peluquería I was uncertain about the tipping culture so I decided to err on the side of generous and give a 20% tip like I do back home. The hairdresser told me ‘absolutely no’ and resisted my tip until I lowered it to 5€. I have since found that simply dropping a euro or two into the tip jar will put a smile on their faces. Still, Spanish friends have assured me that this is not at all expected, so do as you feel best.] Also, if you at all feel like you are being taken advantage of with the pricing (i.e. the cost they quoted you when you made the appointment was much lower than what they ask you to pay at the end), say something and absolutely don’t feel guilty about not leaving a tip.

7.) Don’t worry, be happy: Like any haircut/style/coloring experience, you may leave the salon a bit decepcionad@ or underwhelmed. For some reason, hairdressers around the world seem to have a knack for doing the exact opposite of what you asked for. ‘Tis the life. In my personal experience, however, after a week with my new hair I always end up loving it, so be open-minded and try not to get too upset in the moment. As with anything, no pasa nada! At least hair eventually grows back!